The Democratic Party primary can largely be seen as a contest between two wings of the party: the progressives and the neoliberals. Up until very recently, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been attempting to keep a foot in each camp — his rhetoric was often quite progressive, but his policies mostly fell into the centrist/neoliberal camp. In recent days he seems to have abandoned this strategy, deciding rather to totally embrace the centrist position.
This can be seen in his recent comments on Medicare for All and his aggressive attacks on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at the last Democratic debate. However, the clearest, and most repugnant, example o this was a comment he made two days ago during an interview. He was asked about his fundraising in the race. Buttigieg has had some impressive numbers during this campaign. In the first quarter of 2019, he raised over $7 million, despite being a fairly unknown figure. By Q2, he was the top fundraiser in the field, bring in $25 million. His numbers in Q3 were pretty strong as we, raising $18 million. However, his numbers did drop and he dropped to third place, behind Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who brought in around $25 million each. These numbers were even more impressive because Sanders and Warren did so almost entirely with small grassroots donations.
Over the last few months, Buttigieg’s polling numbers have been falling as well. He was able to point to his strong fundraising as a defense for staying in the race. That argument is harder to make as he dropped to third in fundraising. Buttigieg, who has donations from 24 Billionaires (the most in the field), when questioned about the fact that he was outraised by two candidates who mainly took small donations, railed that “we are not going to beat [Trump] with pocket change.” Without a doubt, this is the most insulting thing any of the Democratic candidates has said this election cycle. The progressives, especially Sanders, have been raising money from ordinary working-class Americans, averaging $18 at a time. The profession that has donated the most of Sanders are teachers. Among the top employers of his doners are hourly wage-workers from Amazon, Starbucks, and Walmart. What Mayor Pete calls “pocket change” is the hard-earned money of folks that can scarcely afford to spare even a few dollars. While Buttigieg attends fancy fundraisers in the Hamptons and collects checks from billionaires, Walmart workers that are struggling to pay their rent and feed their families are giving what they can because they have found a candidate that truly fights for them.
When Mayor Pete first jumped into the race, I found him interesting and, despite being a dedicated Sanders supporters, I wanted to help him make the debate stage. I donated $1 to Mayor Pete to help him hit the 70,000 grassroots donations he needed to qualify. I gave some “pocket change” to him because, quite frankly, he fooled me. I thought he would be a progressive ally in the civil war that was being waged in the Democratic Party. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I am a teacher; when I give money to a candidate, it means something to me. Now, as I see the true Mayor Pete, I am ashamed that I donated to his campaign. And so, I am formally requesting my “pocket change” back. I would like to donate it, instead, to a candidate that does not display complete and utter disdain for the working people of America!
UPDATE: On October 29th, the Buttigieg campaign refunded by “pocket change.” Additionally, on December 12th, others began to copy the action described in this post and the hashtag #RefundPete was born. It has now gone viral as thousands of people are demanding their pocket change back from Wall Street Pete!